Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn | An Enthralling War Novel of Female Spies and Revenge

Hello friends! Today I’m bringing a review of The Alice Network, a riveting war novel where there were so many moments where I held my breath, many where I felt like echoing Eve’s and Lilli’s string of colourful French curses… I stayed up late to finish this and it was so worth it.


Genre(s): Historical Fiction | Age: Adult
Series: No

Published: 6 June 2017 | Read: 28 July 2020
No. of Pages: 503

Click here to view Trigger Warnings Brief torture scene, Sexual Assault, abortion

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, code name Alice, the “queen of spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

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The Alice Network was a network of female spies during WW1 and this book tells of Eve Gardiner joining the fight against the Germans as a spy. That was in 1915. In 1947, she crosses paths with Charlie St. Clair who is unwed and pregnant (yes you heard right). Both women have their own missions, Charlie’s of seeking the truth of her lost cousin and Eve’s of revenge.

“Fleurs du mal,” Eve heard herself saying, and shivered. “What?” “Baudelaire. We are not flowers to be plucked and shielded, Captain. We are flowers who flourish in evil.”

Eve’s story gripped me. She is you typical “bad-ass”, strong, independent female heroine. Kinda cliche maybe but she was portrayed so well! Especially with her weakness. Her somewhat Achilles’ heel.

Eve has a permanent stammer in her speech and this wrecked her life. It cost her a good job. It made people’s noses turn up at her.

Naturally, she hated it.

However, Quinn makes her story so empowering in the way she finally embraces it as part of her identity and uses it to her advantage as a spy.

Furthermore, apart from this immense character growth, I was insanely captivated by her determination and her wit. I can’t say much without spoiling but she is THE SPY.

From her fears of being a newbie, to smart tactics and many sacrifices and pain, you will be gasping and glued to the book.

“Buck up, I told myself fiercely as a bellboy brushed past. Just buck up. Don’t be sorry for yourself, Charlie St. Clair, because that is just so goddamn boring.”

On the other hand, Charlie’s POV was so-so. More of an add on Eve’s story. I couldn’t really connect with her, probably because most of the drama and action was on Eve’s story, Charlie felt more of a complement to her. Furthermore, there was no significant characterisation on Charlie other than the fact that she was “trying to be strong”, and it didn’t help that she struck me as rather spoilt for a large portion of the novel.

“…You know why none of us judge?’ I bumped his shoulder with mine until he finally looked down at me. ‘Because none of us have the goddamn right to look down our noses at anyone else’s sins.”

Though I did not really enjoy much of Charlie’s story, the parallel between the 2 women and the different paths they take was excellently executed! It was so subtle which was incredible, really highlighting how different women respond in similar situations in different time periods despite both being strong and independent.

Additionally, I loved Eve’s curt manner towards the “Yank” and Charlie trying her best to be tolerant, and in the end evolving into a deep relationship, especially because it was between an old weathered lady and a young modern woman, where they would risk their life for each other. I deeply adore these so called “unlikely” female friendships

And Lilli, seriously a character I look up to immensely now. Able to think on her feet, fierce but still charming and positive, though hiding many burdens including concerns for the women in her network. A fantastic leader.

I was thrilled that she was a person in real life: Louise de Bettignies.

I lived for these Lilli moments, and treasured the friendship between her and “little daisy” as well. Essentially, this is a terrific book about the power of friendships, which is a topic I can resonate deeply with

But the other kind of love… Yeah I am referring to the romantic kind… I felt that it was way to fast without much development! Maybe I am a very slow-burn romance kind of reader, but I felt that this relationship was forced and just used the excuse of “we both are broken”. That was disappointing.

Other than courage, bravery, love and all those amazing qualities humans possess even during a time of harsh suffering and wicked betrayals, what impacted me greatly was the message of hate.

click here if you have read the book because spoilers!!! Eve detested Rene Bolderon with all her heart and soul which was totally okay considering what he did to her. However, even after the war, for a good 30 years she held on to that hate which wrecked her. Her sole purpose was revenge. Vengeance. And whiskey too but the point is Eve allowed that hate to consume her and her future. She could have buried that anger, accepted it, and moved on. But she didn’t. And look what a broken women she become. I concur that this makes a very dark character which would make the dynamics between her and Charlie more lively but this, I feel was something which broke me too.

“Hope was such a painful thing, far more painful than rage.”

The Alice Network gives such a valuable lesson about how hate though natural and feels like it affects the other, is actually gnawing at us on the inside, unbeknownst to us, morphing us into dark and angry creatures.

To quote from The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom): “It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.”

That was an important thing I learnt from Eve, other than her tenacity.

“The idea made her sick and scared, but so what? Why did it matter if something scared you, when it simply had to be done anyway?”

With the riveting plot and the diverse, deeply-explored characters, this is an amazing piece of historical fiction. So I suggest you get comfy, perhaps don on a morally questionable hat and dive into the world of The Alice Network.

rating: ★★★★

Have you read The Alice Network? What are some of your favourite war novels?


9 thoughts on “Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn | An Enthralling War Novel of Female Spies and Revenge

  1. Great review! This book sounds interesting! I’m always looking for new historical fiction novels to try out and I might try this one day 🙂


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